Separating technique and repertoire

Hello friends, I have a question, hope you can help me with this:

What do you think about separating technique from repertoire in your practice sessions and in your classes (if you teach or if you are a student)? Do you think is better to have a session where you practice technique and another session where you practice songs, improv, etc?

I have this doubt because I no longer found sense in practicing technique, chords, improv and transcription in one hour practice session.

Thanks for your thoughts!

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For what it’s worth, anecdotal data point:

When I was younger I spent a lot of time doing exercises, but I am not sure what I actually learned from them.

Nowadays I don’t have much time to play guitar, so I dropped any form of “exercise”, and I only work on things that are (potentially) going into a song or recording.

I’m also not sure that the two things are distinct: if you can’t play something, it can’t be in your repertoire :upside_down_face:


That is true Tommo, I’m gathering some opinions about this and the common thing is that songs are the most important thing, and the technique you practice you can build it directly in the repertoire :muscle:t3:

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I’ve seen some jazz players who specifically seperate technical stuff like scales, arpeggios etc into their own practice sessions which you could probably count as “technique”, and then do stuff where they focus on learning the standards and being able to play over them.


Classical musicians definitely advocate splitting it up. It’s easy to say “well look how good they are, they must be correct!”. Part of me wonders if their repertoire alone, which is full of the scales and arpeggios they standalone drill, would be enough. I.E. more dogma from a fairly dogmatic community :slight_smile:


I’ve research studies suggest that “random” practice is a better approach than “block” practice - meaning that instead of practicing one thing for a large block of time (15+ minutes) it is better to alternate between practicing several things for 2-3 minutes each. Switching up what we practice seems to keep our brains more engaged, keep us more focused, result in more effort, and lead to better retention.

So to apply this skill you could practice one song, practice another, do some technique, improvisation, another technique, and repeat. Instead of separating technique and repertoire, interweave them.


This is kinda what I do. Excerpts from tunes (both my own originals from my bands and licks I’m learning from other songs) make the best “exercises” but I also will run sequences that lend themselves to improve upon the techniques needed to play said excerpts.

“Technique” practice in the form of dumb 1234 chromatic exercises or whatnot I never do. Unless I’m not sure what to work on and I need to just start moving my hands for a few minutes. Those things I find inferior to songs or solo / lick excerpts or scale / arpeggio patterns / sequences that have real musical applications.

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This topic is really interesting, Troy talks a lot about chunking. Thanks for your thoughts!

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